Meknes, Morocco - The practice of transferring literary works to film has a long history in global cinema, producing cinematic classics such as Zorba the Greek, The Name of the Rose, The Grapes of Wrath”, The Godfather, and Gone With the Wind.
Meknes, Morocco – The practice of transferring literary works to film has a long history in global cinema, producing cinematic classics such as Zorba the Greek, The Name of the Rose, The Grapes of Wrath”, The Godfather, and Gone With the Wind.
Though not as common as in other parts of the world, Moroccan cinema too is inspired by both local and international literature. Among such cinematographic works one can refer to The Sun of Spring by Latif Lahlou, a story written by the Moroccan novelist Abdel Karim Ghellab, The Tar by Yassine Siddiqi who adapts it from his own play Mr. Yassin on the Road, Mohamed Chokri’s Le Pain Nu, was adapted in a film by Rachid Benhadj, Mohamed Moftakir’s Spéculaire from Taher Benjalloun’s L’Enfant de Sable, and Ali Zaoua by Nabil Ayouch. On the whole, Moroccan cinema references not only Moroccan literature but stories by Western and European writers as well. However, Moroccan filmmakers are still criticized for their limited attempts to bridge the gap between literature and cinema.
In Ali Zaoua, Nabil Ayouch has borrowed from Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist, in terms of plot as well as the physical, and psychological features of his major characters; there are many similarities between the literary protagonist (Oliver Twist) and the cinematic hero (Ali Zaoua). The film is replete with events from Dickens’ novel, including Ali’s escape from the domination of an old man who exploits homeless orphan children.
Mohamed Moftakir borrowsmajor features of the characters in his film Spéculaire from the protagonist in Taher Benjalloun’s l’Enfant de Sable. Furthermore, many events that take place in the novel are repeated in the film, like the father’s insistence on treating his youngest daughter like a male, attempting to hide her breasts. Additionally, the filmmaker has transformed themes and ideas that shape the novel into a cinematic discourse,, so as to shed light on the schizophrenic nature of the heroine’s personality. Nonetheless, the techniques used to explore the most important themes of the story in the film differ from those in the novel. For instance, while Taher Benjalloun uses monologues to reflect the duality of the protagonist’s personality, Mohamed Moftakir creates a mental hospital where the heroine discovers her schizophrenia.
Laghtiri has argued that the relationship between literature and Moroccan cinema is almost non-existent. He statesthat few works of fiction have been converted to cinema, and are mostly famous works written in or translated into French or English. There are many reasons for this gulf distance between Moroccan cinema and literature, but most important according to Lagtiri is that most Moroccan filmmakers are educated in French, and rarely read Moroccan texts written in Arabic. Another factor in the reluctance of Moroccan filmmakers to relate their cinematic works to local literature is that novels give more attention to poetic language than to plot, which is crucial for film.
Other obstacles preventing filmmakers from referencing literature stem from the fundamental differences betweenthe two artistic products. First of all, in a novel ideas are expressed through a distinct rhetorical style on paper and without page limits. Films, on the other hand, are multimodal texts; they communicate ideas via images, speech, symbols, music, and even silence. Unlike novels, films are time-constrained, rarely exceeding two hours.
Clearly, producing a film based on a novel requires skill on the part of the filmmaker to manipulate the literary work appropriately, choosing the most important scenes and events without distorting the central message of the novel. This can be observed in the film For Bread Alone, the producer of which chose to combine the first and second parts of Mohamed Chokri’s biography, For Bread Alone and Time of Errors, to depict the social and economic ills brought about by the Spanish and French colonialization of Morocco. The filmmaker does not keep the novel as it is; rather, he omitts some scenes, keeping only those which convey the central message.
Literature is a very important vehicle through which a writer can reflect the social and political dimensions of his country. However,since we live in an age in which images have a more powerful influence on an audience than text, it has become necessary to continue this same mission of revealing social and political aspects of Morocco in a more modern way, through film. In order to prevent the destruction of Moroccan literary works, national film-makers have to adapt these literary works into films.
Edited by Jessica Rohan
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